WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Moose’s ability to outshoot opponents results in a solid 2-and-1 week.
The first game was an exciting affair that was much harder than it needed to be. Manitoba started strong with a power-play goal from David Gustafsson and ended the period outshooting the Milwaukee Admirals 11-3. Unfortunately, the Moose decided to lay an egg defensively in the second by giving up three straight goals. Thankfully, Jeff Malott got one back on the power-play with a secondary assist from Leon Gawanke. You might be wondering why that secondary assist was so important. Well, this was the moment that Gawanke put the Moose on his back and carried them to victory. He went on to score the tying goal in the third and the overtime winner. Manitoba finished the game outshooting Milwaukee a record-setting 60-16. The game was a perfect microcosm of the Moose’s season and an example of how costly defensive mistakes continue to require superhuman offensive production.
The second game was the flip side of the first. This time, Manitoba couldn’t outscore their defensive blunders, despite outshooting the Grand Rapids Griffins 34-25. The first goal saw Ville Heinola lose a net battle, leaving the Griffins Turner Elson wide open for a tap-in. The final tally came late in the second period off a snipe from Grand Rapids Riley Barber. It’s fair to point to lazy stick checking by Jimmy Oligny as the cause of this goal, but it was also a great shot. The Moose fired ten shots in the third, but they ultimately couldn’t solve Griffins netminder Calvin Pickard. This 2-0 loss is the first time Manitoba has been held off the score sheet all year.
However, in typical Moose fashion, they came out flying the first period following a loss! Manitoba filled Grand Rapids net with four goals before the end of the first, resulting in the departure of the Griffins starter and the return of yesterday’s hero, Pickard. Yet, even Pickard was helpless to stop the onslaught, as the Moose put two more past him. In the 6-2 pounding, Manitoba had goals from six different players while outshooting Grand Rapids 35-16. This game wasn’t perfect, but it was the best the Moose looked all week!
Heinola continued his stellar play. Manitoba’s star defenceman added three assists to his season total and now sits tied with Gustafsson for the team lead! Leading the team in points is no small feat for a defenseman, and It’s even more impressive when you realize he has done it in two fewer games. Yet, it’s not only his offensive play that has been solid; he’s also leading the team with a plus-six. Like I mentioned last week, Heinola might have an Eddie Shore Award in his future if he continues this level of production.
Malott is finally putting the puck in the net! Manitoba’s leading goal scorer last season was struggling to start this year. With only one goal in his first ten games, there were fair questions about his production. However, this has hopefully turned around! Malott scored two goals in three games this week and is finally getting some bounces to go his way. Before this weekend, he had looked dangerous, getting assists and having a few great chances a game, yet, it wouldn’t go in. Now, Moose fans are anticipating these two goals will spark a flurry of offense from the 25-year-old winger. That seems likely, especially if his power-play time continues to increase and his chemistry with his linemates grows.
The Not So Good
The issues the team faces are the same ones that have plagued them all year. Defensive lapses constantly cause them to lose or keep games closer than they need to be. In just these three games, the Moose gave up four goals to wide-open players. The opposition only scored seven. That means that 57% of goals scored against were by players left alone in front. It also doesn’t help that most of the seven goals were direct results of turnovers. If Manitoba wants to be better than a .500 hockey team, they need to clean up their play in the defensive zone. If they don’t want to do that, at least we have exciting hockey to watch.
What’s Coming Up?
The Moose will finally return home from their six-game road trip for a five-game homestand! Yet, the opponent for the first three games will look very similar.
All three games will take place against the 3-7-1 Milwaukee Admirals. Manitoba has played Milwaukee two times already this season and has split the series 1-1. Although both games went to overtime, the Moose did outshoot the Admirals 92-45 in the two contests. Manitoba has been the far better team in both games but has given up too many top-notch scoring chances. Therefore, if Manitoba can tighten up defensively and solve Milwaukee goaltender Connor Ingram, this could be a solid three games for them. However, those two things have been the kryptonite of the Moose so far. You can watch the first two games Thursday and Friday at 7 pm CST, while the final contest will be at 2 pm CST on Sunday.
Will the Moose fix their defensive deficiencies or try to overcome them with scoring? Can the Moose solve Connor Ingram, or will he best them once again? Let me know what you think, Moose fans! You can find me on Twitter @FPHMoose
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